4 Things You Need to Know about Granuloma Annulare

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Granuloma annulare is a skin condition characterized by ring-shaped groupings of lesions. Here are four things you need to know about it.

What are the signs of granuloma annulare?

Granuloma annulare lesions are raised red or skin-colored bumps on your skin. They may be itchy, but not always. The lesions tend to form ring-shaped groupings that are as large as 2 inches in diameter.

The lesions are usually localized and tend to appear on the extremities such as the hands or feet. Some people with this condition have more widespread lesions and will develop them on larger patches of skin, like their torso. Dermatologists call the latter type "generalized granuloma annulare."

What causes it?

The cause of granuloma annulare is still unknown. A variety of conditions have been suggested as possible causes, ranging from trauma to viral infections to bug bites. Other factors like damage to the veins or metabolic disorders have also been proposed as possible causes. More studies are needed to narrow down the possible causes.

What treatments are available?

The localized type of this condition is self-limited, which means that it will eventually go away by itself, without any treatment. Your dermatologist may recommend leaving it alone and waiting for the lesions to clear on their own, but if you are very bothered by the lesions, treatments are available. The generalized type is not self-limited and will require treatment.

One possible treatment for granuloma annulare is the injection of corticosteroids directly into the lesions. Corticosteroids reduce inflammation and may get rid of your lesions, but you may be left with scars where the lesions were. Cryotherapy can also be used to destroy the lesions with extreme cold.

Oral medications can be used off-label to treat the generalized type. If your lesions are widespread, your dermatologist may give you a medication such as dapsone, an antibiotic used to treat leprosy, or isoretinoin, an acne medication.

How common is granuloma annulare?

No studies have been done to estimate the prevalence of this condition in the general American population, so it's not known how common it is. Researchers do know that the condition affects women twice as often as men. The localized form of granuloma annulare tends to affect people who are 30 years or younger. The generalized form tends to occur in children under 10 and in adults between 30 and 60 years old.

If you have rings of lesions on your body, see a dermatologist like J Kent Bartruff MD PA right away as you may have granuloma annulare.